Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A hole in one

with 20 comments

Prickly Pear Pad with a Hole in It 5945

As is appropriate for this subject, click for greater sharpness.

January 23 found me in northwest Austin close to Loop 360 near Bluffstone Dr., and that’s an accurate name because I did follow a path up a rocky bluff overlooking the highway. As I walked along, one thing that caught my attention was this hole—which is actually the lack of a thing—in the pad of a prickly pear cactus, Opuntia engelmannii. There are a lot of these cacti in central Texas, and it’s not that unusual to see a hole in one of their pads from time to time. My guess is that the hole you see here was the result of a process like the one I showed in a post almost a year ago, which I assumed to be the work of a fungus. Still, most of you don’t live near cacti of this type, so a hole in one of them may strike you as strange. Take that as a prelude, because more prickly pear strangeness is coming your way next time.

UPDATE: Holes like this may be caused by fungi in the genus Phyllosticta, as I found in this article.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 30, 2013 at 6:22 AM

20 Responses

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  1. Have you ever seen one that looks like a tree? http://2012.walktx.org/Stanton/DSCF3934.JPG


    January 30, 2013 at 7:45 AM

    • Thanks for that link showing a cactus in the form of a tree. Do you happen to know what species it is?

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 30, 2013 at 7:51 AM

      • No, I’m sorry. I was traveling and saw it and snapped the picture. Its pads looked like a normal cactus that you’d see growing close to the ground. If you’d like to take a road trip to west Texas it is in the little town on Stanton not far from Midland.


        January 30, 2013 at 10:37 AM

        • I’m eager to get back out there because I haven’t visited the region for several years. Maybe 2013 will be the time.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 30, 2013 at 10:56 AM

          • I enjoy your blogs and look forward to your travels in the area.


            January 30, 2013 at 11:02 AM

  2. This photograph is telling me a story. 😉


    January 30, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    • Would you care to tell us your story?

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 30, 2013 at 11:04 AM

      • Yes, but I didn’t want to blog crash.

        The cactus watched the man as he knelt down to get a closer look. He shifted his weight from one knee to the other, but could not get the shot to line up. He squirmed, then wriggled, to find a place among the other cacti in this wild space. Now laying on his side, his body in wild contortions, he found himself horribly uncomfortable, but stabilized. Pleased with his success in not being pricked to death, he held his breath, and took the shot.

        The cactus, being grateful for his attention, leaned in and thanked him with a kiss.


        January 30, 2013 at 11:58 AM

        • Someone has a vivid imagination, Lynda! Actually, as many times as I’ve mentioned lying down to get pictures, this wasn’t one of them, but even kneeling or sitting near a cactus can be hazardous because of the remains of pads (including spines and glochids) that often lurk on or under the ground. As for your concluding sentence, that sounds like a risky sort of osculation, but I’m still grateful for the attention.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 30, 2013 at 1:12 PM

      • (I have been writing 100 word short stories lately. I just noticed that this was exactly 100 words.)


        January 30, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        • Sounds like you’ve internalized a sense of how long 100 words is. Let’s hear it for arithmetic!

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 30, 2013 at 1:20 PM

      • I had to look that one up! You and Linda at Shoreacres often have me running for my dictionary.
        I was going for humorous irony in my hundred words. Does math garner bonus points?


        January 30, 2013 at 2:04 PM

        • I appreciate your humorous irony. As for math, with me it always garners bonus points; I’ll grant you 100 of them, but where you can redeem them, well, that’s another story.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 30, 2013 at 2:12 PM

  3. Out between Kerrville and Medina, north of TX16 up on the old Spicer Ranch, there’s a piece of property where the cedars are hung with dozens of limestone rocks, their branches sticking through the holes nature created. If I’d had this cactus, I’d have put a ring of hole-y rocks around it, and smiled and smiled.


    January 30, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    • I’d like to have seen that sight. I’ve sometimes found rocks in plants and trees in positions that make me pretty sure people have been at work. In those cases I usually don’t take pictures, but I’m always on the lookout for strange things that seem to have happened without human agency.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 30, 2013 at 11:09 AM

  4. A hole in the cactus is new to me even though there are plenty of cactus in parts of the county where I live. (in some places) I’ll look forward to more pics in the futrure.


    January 30, 2013 at 7:33 PM

    • I’ve seen holes in prickly pear cacti from time to time each year, so I bet you’ll eventually see some, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 30, 2013 at 7:58 PM

  5. Really great job framing this. It makes for a very interesting image..

    Brian Comeau

    January 30, 2013 at 9:23 PM

  6. […] a return to a subject treated on January 30: a prickly pear cactus pad with a hole in it. Not wanting to repeat myself, I’m offering you a photograph of a prickly pear pad with two […]

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